The Charlottesville School Board on Thursday voted unanimously to send a $74.6 million funding request for fiscal year 2016 to the City Council. The request represents a 2.8 percent increase over the current school year’s operational budget.
The projected revenues include $47.4 million in local funding. That is a $1.8 million increase, or about 4 percent, over the current year in the support expected to come from local taxpayers.
“I think it’s a reasonable request,” board Chairwoman Amy Laufer said after the meeting. “The truth is it’s a 2.8 percent increase, so [compare that] to the rate of inflation. Plus 60 percent of what we are asking for is wages.”
The budget will be shaped further by the state budget and the City Council.
“Once the General Assembly and the City Council have finalized state and city budgets, staff will provide updated information to the School Board for deliberation and revision to the budget that is currently being approved,” said Ed Gillaspie, the division’s finance director.
“The School Board approves the budget with these estimates in place and then we come back … and we will then react to whatever the available revenues are,” Gillaspie said.
The council has instructed City Manager Maurice Jones to build his budget maintaining the current real estate tax rate of $0.95 per $100 of assessed real estate property value and to increase the city’s meals tax from 4 percent to 5 percent.
Those additional revenues allowed the council to address a shortfall in schools Superintendent Rosa Atkins’ initial budget proposal.
Increased compensation is a significant funding initiative. The budget recommends teachers receive a step increase plus 0.75 percent, and employees who are not eligible for the step pay increase would receive a 1 percent increase.
According to Gillaspie, that translates to an average raise for employees of 2 percent. On the pay scale, a starting teacher in the school division would make $44,491 next year, an increase of $331.
“Salary is a big way to express appreciation of a position,” said Bonnie Yoder, a special-education teacher at Jackson-Via Elementary and president of the Charlottesville Education Association. “I think they tried to do the best they could do with the money available.”
The board came prepared for a quick vote as most of the details had been hashed out in previous work sessions. The meeting lasted 14 minutes and Yoder was the only member of the public who spoke to the board.
Laufer also noted that the school division educates many 3- and 4-year-old children who cannot afford private preschool.
“We are not just funding K-12,” she said. “We have more preschool programs than [Albemarle County] or any of our neighboring counties.”
“A lot of our programs are, I would say, visionary — the 1 to 1 [computer] initiative, the Spanish implementation in the elementary school,” Laufer said. “We offer a lot of programs that are more innovative and all of that costs money.”
Jones is expected to present his budget to the council March 2. A public hearing on the overall city budget, including schools and the real estate tax rate, will be held at 7 p.m. March 16 in City Council chambers.
The council also will hold budget work sessions throughout March. More information is available at www.charlottesville.org/budget.